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Guidance with equipment upgrade (DAC, amp, AVR)

csepulv

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Recently, I've done some room swaps in my home and I looking to update the equipment in my new family room. I discovered ASR a few weeks ago and have been grateful, amazed, and a bit overwhelmed, by the treasure trove of information on the site. I've spent many hours reading, trying to lessen my ignorance. (Many thanks to @amirm and the ASR community.)

I have an old Denon AVR-3808CI and Paradigm speakers. I recently built a Raspberry PI streamer running Volumio. (I also have a Roku, DirecTV, and Blu-ray player).

From what I've read here, AVRs are okay, but generally suffer from stuffing a lot of elements in one box and can have mediocre components constrained by price (and perhaps not enough attention to detail/testing).

So, I am considering buying a good desktop DAC (Topping, possibly Matrix Audio) and a Hypex or Purifi based amp. I can imagine connecting the DAC and the amp, with my Denon DVR, in a few different ways:

Opt A
Raspberry PI stream->Topping DAC->Denon analog input (direct/pure direct mode)->amp

Opt B
Denon Pre-out (fronts) -> Matrix Mini-i 3 DAC (has analog inputs)
Raspberry PI Stream -> Matrix DAC
Matrix DAC -> Amp

In both cases, I would let the Denon handle HDMI switching/processing for the Blu-ray, DirecTV and Roku.

In opt (a), I lose the balanced output/input from the DAC to the amp. How significant a loss is that, for my overall music listening? Might the Denon introduce noise/problems to the DAC->amp chain, even in pure direct mode?

Option (a) is a bit cheaper (I could use Topping D30 Pro) and seems fine if the Denon doesn't cause the chain to break down.

Should I just get the DAC? Or just the amp?

My goal is a better music listening experience. I am relatively happy with my current setup, but I don't know if the Denon is "clean" enough (SINAD, power, ...).

In short, I am wondering if my AVR is a weak enough link in the chain that the Topping DAC, the Hypex (or Purifi) amp or both would make for a much better listening experience. (The Topping D30 Pro and a Hypex/Purifi amp seem like good values with very good performance.)

Or perhaps the weak link in the chain is me? That would be okay, but it is hard to know (i.e. measure) if I am the weak link. :)

Thanks in advance for any guidance.
 
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csepulv

csepulv

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After I posted this, I then noticed the following in the "Similar Threads"

So if I don't really hear a problem, maybe I am fine? I'd still be curious to hear any opinions and guidance. I still find myself spun around as I read through the various opinions and posts.
 

Chrispy

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I was just looking at your plan to use pre-outs to a dac? What would the point of that be since it's already analog? I think the 3808 is a nice unit (I have one) in any case and you likely would gain zilch with an external dac.
 
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csepulv

csepulv

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@Chrispy, assuming you are referring to
Denon Pre-out (fronts) -> Matrix Mini-i 3 DAC (has analog inputs)
Raspberry PI Stream -> Matrix DAC
The pre-outs from the Denon, in this case, would be to send the HDMI decoded signals (TV, Roku,...) to the Matrix, so there is a path to the amp and speakers. The Matrix DAC would only decode the Raspberry PI (and any streaming to the Matrix). I only considered this in the case the Denon would somehow interfere with the Topping, in option A. Or if there was reason I should really preserve the balanced output of the DAC.

But on the dac in the 3808, it seems your experience is that the Denon 3808 dac is good enough and neither Topping nor the Matrix would add anything. Good to know.

Thanks.
 

Chrispy

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@Chrispy, assuming you are referring to

The pre-outs from the Denon, in this case, would be to send the HDMI decoded signals (TV, Roku,...) to the Matrix, so there is a path to the amp and speakers. The Matrix DAC would only decode the Raspberry PI (and any streaming to the Matrix). I only considered this in the case the Denon would somehow interfere with the Topping, in option A. Or if there was reason I should really preserve the balanced output of the DAC.

But on the dac in the 3808, it seems your experience is that the Denon 3808 dac is good enough and neither Topping nor the Matrix would add anything. Good to know.

Thanks.
Didn't look up the Matrix unit, but since it was described as a dac I was wondering why you would feed it an analog signal, but it does appear to have analog inputs and can act as a pre-amp/integrated amp to an extent (for headphones, you don't seem to have an amp?). I'd just use the Denon for dac/amp generally. Don't see the benefits of adding complexity, altho maybe if you're a headphone user the Matrix unit is helpful?
 
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